Ingram’s Guide to Opening a Bookstore

March 22, 2024
Ingram Staff
Ingram’s Guide to Opening a Bookstore

As a booklover, you have probably dreamt about opening your own independent bookstore. You’ve sifted through a list of book puns to pick out the perfect store name and envisioned a unique window display that would for sure catch everyone’s attention. So, what is stopping you from making this dream a reality?

Check out our guide to opening a bookstore where we break down the steps you need to take each month to successfully open your doors to the community!

6 Months to 1 Year Out | Do Some Market Research

Visit Your Local Bookstores

The best way to gather inspiration is to look at your surroundings. Scope out any existing independent bookstores in your area and determine how your store will fit in the local market. Take note of the following aspects:

  • Design of other indie bookstores
  • Genre of books on their shelves
  • Pricing
  • Frequency of visitors
  • Type of customers who shop there

This information can help you decide on a realistic vision for your indie bookstore, and how you can implement unique characteristics to attract customers.

If you are opening the first local bookshop in your area (congratulations!), consider taking inspiration from bookstores who have a similar community landscape as your neighborhood. We recommend using the bookstore finder from IndieBound as a research tool for far away bookshops.

Create a Strategic Business Plan 

A great business plan is the foundation to obtaining the funding for opening a successful independent bookstore. The Small Business Administration and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) offer a multitude of resources to help create your business plan. Here are just a few things to consider as you start developing out your plan:

  • What are your expected margins?
  • How many and what type of employees will you need to hire?
  • What type of sidelines (gift & game items) will you carry?
  • How are you going to generate demand for a bookstore in your initial opening phase?

Start Shopping for Space

You’ve got an idea of what your dream bookstore will look like, now it’s time to commit to a space to make it reality. Consider a few factors as you start shopping around for locations such as:

  • Rent costs
  • Visibility
  • Proximity to other businesses

You will also want to think about foot traffic, accessibility to your target customers, as well as parking. Once you’ve found your location and have signed a lease, it's time to move to the next steps!

3 to 6 Months Out | Time to Get Started

Create an Ingram Account & Begin Your ROSI Process

Opening a new store is stressful. Once you create an Ingram account, we can help alleviate some of that stress with our ROSI (Recommended Opening Store Inventory) program. Using world-class title data, Ingram’s team of experienced retail pros, you can feel confident that you have the right books at the right time for your community.

Order Shelves & Fixtures

The atmosphere of your bookstore is just as important as (if not more than) its location, so make sure your bookshelves and fixtures are giving the same vibe. Consider the height of everything, what color goes best with your aesthetics, and how you want your books and sidelines to be displayed.

There are a lot of things to consider! If you feel like you’re not sure where to start, as a ROSI customer, your sales rep can offer you a list of trusted contacts who would be more than happy to help.

Determine a Point of Sale System

A Point of Sale (POS) system serves as a central hub for managing sales, inventory, and customer interactions. The right POS system can help a bookseller streamline operations and provide a better shopping experience for their customers. Reach out to other booksellers nearby and ask about their preferred system or ask your Ingram Sales rep! They have a list of highly rated contacts that can help you get started.

Order & Stock Your Shelves

The heart of any bookstore is indeed the books. Choosing which titles to bring into your store can be based on a variety of things including:

  • Customer and community interests
  • Market competition
  • Regional messages
  • Your own personal passions

It is your choice if you want to focus on a specialty category such as rare books or children’s books, or if you want to offer a wide variety of books about any topic, by any author. Once you have narrowed down the subjects you want to promote in your bookstore, Ingram can help you identify and order the right mix.

Start Interviewing Staff

Staffing your bookstore with knowledgeable and passionate team members can take your bookstore from a place to find good books to a focal point in the community. A good book crew has the following traits:

  • Vast product knowledge
  • Engagement skills with customers
  • An understanding of how bookstores operate

This process might take some time, but at the end of the day, having the right team for your store will be worth the wait.

6 to 12 Weeks Out | Finalize the Details

Consider Online Solutions

While it is nice to see all your customer’s smiling faces in person, sometimes people prefer to browse your selection from the comfort of their own home. By giving your store an online presence, you can expand your reach even more. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Bookshop: Create a page on to not only expand your reach, but also contribute to their mission. Every purchase on the site financially supports independent bookstores (including yours!).
  • Indie Commerce: As an ABA member, you can utilize their Indie Commerce tool, an e-commerce platform for independent bookstores. The system provides the tools for indie bookstores to create unique, content-rich, and easy-to-operate, fully transactional, e-commerce enabled websites.
  • Create your own website: On your bookstore website, simply create a page dedicated to ordering from your inventory, online.

Legal Considerations

As you prepare to open your independent bookstore, we recommend consulting with legal and financial professionals to ensure compliance with local regulations. They will be able to identify and assist you with obtaining any necessary permits or licenses required to operate a bookstore in your area, as well as help you register your business.

Apply for Your Standard Address Number (SAN)

A Standard Address Number (SAN) is a unique seven-digit number to identify a specific address of an organization involved in the publishing industry. This makes it easier to accurately identify and communicate with other entities in the supply chain, such as publishers, distributors, and wholesalers. If you need help getting your own SAN, Ingram can help.

Plan Your Opening Day Event

It may seem like the event is far away, but it’ll be sooner than you think! It’s time to start planning and gathering what you will need in advance. Decide what refreshments and snacks you’d like to provide customers. Will there be live local music and entertainment? If so, you may need to book this right away. Also, consider additional ways you can engage with attendees - interactive activities, photobooths, maybe create some thank you gifts to take with them!

2 to 4 Weeks Out | Get Busier! Start the Ordering Process

Customize & Finalize Your ROSI Order

By this point, you and your sales rep may have gone back and forth making edits to your ROSI order, but now is the time to confirm everything so your books are delivered on time. Before you finalize your order, review Ingram’s catalog and work with your rep to ensure you have exactly what you need.

Market Your Independent Bookstore

From print ads in your local newspaper to magazines, and newsletters - efficient marketing is crucial for your new bookstore! But creativity is also key, especially when you want to make your store standout in the community. You want your customers to remember your store based on their experience and memories created there.

We recommend connecting with your community pre-opening to get your name out there. Consider speaking with your schools (PTO/PTA), Chamber of Commerce, neighboring stores, and more!

In addition, now’s a great time to activate your social media channels and start posting. Need a few post ideas? Check out our social media on-demand session.

1 to 2 Weeks Out | Finalize the Details

Your ROSI Order Arrives

Organized to your specifications and delivered with care, your ROSI order should arrive by this point. Happy ROSI unboxing day! The next step will be extra important now.

Have Volunteers Lined Up

Your boxes arrived! Now what? Stocking books all by yourself is never fun. Avoid the late nights of repetitive stacking by reaching out to friends and family to help you tackle the project. The more hands you have, the quicker the process will go!

Opening Day | Celebrate!

Congratulations! While opening day may be a little hectic, be sure to take a moment to reflect on how you made your dream come true! Being an essential part of your community is no small feat, so celebrate!


The exclusive Booklove Rewards Program program triggers rebates upon reaching a specified annual sales goal. We provide monthly updates to help you reach your targeted goal, and we can’t forget to mention the .05% discount you receive on your book orders. Basically, the more booklove you spread, the more profit you make—and who doesn’t love spreading the #booklove?

Let’s face it, sometimes ordering inventory can be overwhelming, but we want to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible. Leave the dirty work to us! We assist independent bookstores with their book purchasing decisions by providing dozens of curated lists via newsletters, emails, rep referrals, through our online ordering platform ipage, and via our Ingram Advance catalog. Finding the right books for your unique customers is easy with Ingram Advance, a comprehensive title listing and purchasing tool published monthly, making ordering decisions simple and quick.

It’s the 21st century, which means we want things at our door faster than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” By consolidating orders into one shipment we can get you the books you need with speed and efficiency. There is no such thing as too many books, so we let you choose from over 16 million titles in our inventory.

 Orders from your website are processed in one of Ingram’s distribution centers and shipped to your customer’s doors—as if they came directly from you. Reduce inventory cost while also eliminating the need to receive, repack, and reship.

Our easy-to-use online search, order, and account management platform, iPage, acts as your comprehensive source for complete title information, product images, stock status updates, ordering, publicity, the latest industry news, and much more.

Easy peasy, huh? We want to continue to spread the #booklove to all communities and want to make it as simple as possible. With these helpful tips and tools, you can continue to grow your independent bookstore, build profits, and attract customers—and we would love to be part of your amazing journey.

Opening a bookstore? We are #IngramForIndies and our goal is to help all indie retail stores thrive by providing great content and helpful tools they can utilize on a daily basis. Check out our ROSI (Recommended Opening Store Inventory) program, which is designed to help alleviate new store stress. ROSI uses world-class Ingram title data managed by a team of experienced retail pros to ensure you enter the marketplace with confidence.

Ingram Staff

Ingram Staff

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